Choosing the best bird house design

If you are a keen birder or simply enjoy the beauty of avian wildlife in your back garden, then a bird house is the perfect way to attract our feathered friends. More than just a decorative addition to your garden, birdhouses can provide warmth and safety to nesting and fledgling birds, while giving you the opportunity to observe them closely.

Because by early spring birds are already browsing for nesting sites, it is important to start shopping for this years’ bird houses and bird boxes early. Some of the most popular birds that nest in bird houses include tits, sparrows, and wrens. But your garden can appeal to a number of other birds depending on the type of birdhouse or bird box you provide.When buying a bird house you might want to consider if you prefer to attract a certain bird species, as the bird house design you purchase will strongly influence this.

 

How big does the entrance hole need to be?

Birdhouses are available in various sizes, but what will usually dictate the type of bird you will attract is the diameter of the entrance hole. Smaller holes (25 to 28mm) will attract tits, tree sparrows and flycatchers and prevent larger predatory birds and rodents such as squirrels from entering. Wider holes (32 to 45mm) will invite in larger birds such as starlings and woodpeckers (see our table below for full reference).Robins, pied wagtails and wrens will nest in boxes with open fronts.

Robins and pied wagtails will however both choose a smaller box, around 100mm x 100mm floor space with a 100mm open entrance space. A 100mm x 100mm box will also attract larger wrens, but they will prefer a taller 140mm front panel. Flycatchers prefer a low 60mm front to the box with a clear outlook.

 

Bird Species

Diameter of Hole

Height above Ground

Bluebird

38

5 to 10

Tits: Blue tit, Coal Tit, March Tit

25

6 to 15

Tree Sparrows

28

8 to 15

Pied Flycatcher

28

8 to 20

Great Tit

32

6 to 15

Nuthatch

32

6 to 10

House Sparrow

32

8 to 12

Woodpecker

45

6 to 20

Starling

45

8 to 20

Wrens

45

8 to 20

Barn Swallow

Open Sides

8 to 12

Robin

Open Sides

>15

Kestrel

Open Sides

>15

Owls

Open Sides

>15

Table 1 - Full table reference for bird houses requirements per bird species.

 

Placement

 

Different species of birds will be attracted to different locations. However there are some considerations that you need to apply to the hanging of all bird houses. Many bird houses are designed to be attached to branches or to the trunk of a tree. This feels most natural for birds and will usually get the most visitors. Purchasing a bird pole will also provide a stable attachment for birdhouses. The benefit of bird poles is that they can help protect birdhouses from rodents such as squirrels by placing a baffler beneath the birdhouse.

Note: Be sure to face your birdhouse away from the sun during the day unless you can provide shade. Facing your birdhouse North or East will shield the entrance from peak sunlight, this is a crucial factor as birds use birdhouses to seek shelter from the elements.

Height

Different birds have different preferences for the heights at which they will build their nests (see table above). Placing them high up will keep them away from predators such as cats and therefore will be more appealing to nesting birds.Tits and tree sparrows will prefer boxes and houses that are between 6 and 15 feet up, and larger bird such as wrens and starlings will be attracted to houses higher up from 6 to 20 feet.Robins and kestrels will swell in open fronted boxes, but they prefer to be lower to the ground, below 15 feet and well hidden in vegetation.

 

Materials

Durability is important, as you will want your bird box to survive the test of time against the elements. Metal birdhouses are not advised as the material can absorb a lot of heat, causing a rise in the core temperature which is dangerous, particularly to fledging birds and hatchlings. Wooden birdhouses and boxes are the most natural choice of material and provide a warm and durable enough home for birds. Most manufacturers will use a naturally decay resistant wood such as cedar or redwood. Pine and plywood are also durable materials; however they will need to be treated to last longer.

Treatments

Wooden birdhouses are generally the most popular type of birdhouse design as woods such as pine and redwood are naturally durable and weather resistant. Some bird houses will have painted interiors; however, most manufacturers will know not to use any artificial treatments on the interior of wooden birdhouses as these can be toxic for birds. It is okay to use stains and water based latex paints inside a birdhouse, but the safest option is to use linseed oil, or even better leave the wood natural. If you feel that your birdhouse requires a new lease of life, choose a natural treatment.

Written by Marion Cointre European Ecommerce Content Specialist at Wild Bird Feeders.

Wildbirdfeeders.co.uk – Your Ultimate Bird Resource.We are Perky Pet®, Birdscapes®, Garden Song® and Avant Garden® – four strong brands recognised as world leaders in the wild bird feeding category! We offer the broadest and deepest selection of quality bird feeding products at competitive prices.